Thursday, 16 February 2017

Mudfest at Peterlee


Its now Thursday and I’ve had enough time to reflect on last Saturdays Cross Country event at Peterlee. The weather was bleak. It had rained all Friday night and continued through most of Saturday. It was grim. It looked grim. it was cold, cold and grim.
The turnout at this seasons penultimate xc was, therefore, well down. Only 350 finishers in the mens event. 

I had sat in the car and changed my spikes from the pathetic stumps that I’d been using quite happily over the previous few months to some silver 12mm beauties that looked like they were fresh from a B horror movie. Keeping my OMM tights on,  I was almost ready to go.
 
At the entrance to the farm, an old gadgie sporting a fluorescent safety jacket had taken £2 off me for parking before his partner in grime had ushered my old Renault onto a sloppy bog. I parked as close as I could to the entrance track which was gravelled but I was still on the soft grass. I looked down the hill where there were snaking soft ruts of mud and knew I’d be lucky to get out without a push or tow. ‘ We’ve got a tractor’ was the confident mantra the gadgie was rolling out to all and sundry as they pointed us into the deepening quagmire. The course for the xc wasn’t any better; and there was no club tent; instead a club flag was flapping, solitary and godforsaken in the strengthening wind. We were pleased when Aurora offered their facilities for us to stow away our bags.  
 
The womens race was up next and I watched the youngster finish 7th and Mrs Mac some way further behind. I tried to get some fotos, but the light was poor. Did I mention it was grim. Grim and cold... and windy. Mrs Mac was wearing my vest as she'd lost hers, so I ended using the youngsters vest for my event. This was a 36 inch chest, I guess, and I knew it was too tight even as I pulled it over my head. It wasn't a good idea.  I adopted a lets get it over with’ mentality. It was 3 x two mile laps and off we went after a little delay. It wasn’t really possible to drop into a regular pace as the mud, divets and pools of running water draining from the nearby fields sucked relentlessly at your spikes; frequent buried cobbles and boulders grabbing at your feet. I was buoyed up by knowing I had a couple of millimetres more than I normally had down there (oo,er).
 
On the second lap I began flagging a little. The borrowed vest, my little straight jacket, was constraining my breathing. I needed all the air I could get, but was working on eighty or ninety percent; I was stuck with it.  I felt like ripping it off.
 
Some way along where it was uber-muddy ponds- slop-gunge (you get the idea) , I must have caught a spike on a submerged rock and went down, 'Splodge' , landing on my left side and only just managing to keep my face above the murky primeval glug. I emerged like I was a dude from Glastonbury and all of my left side was caked in muddy slime. The beast from the bog. My borrowed formerly blue and white vest could have been mistaken for a 'HBT' affair:  But no course was gonna beat me, and on I went grinding out a lamentable pace which slowed even further over the 3rd lap. I couldn’t even be bothered to tuck in behind Smith from Saltwell as he passed by and I finished 76th  after summoning no speed at all in the long final straight. To rub salt into the grubby wound, we didn’t even manage to finish a team, so I might as well have stopped in the car and painted my nails.

The clean up at home was quite like some of the cyclo-cross events that I’ve ridden and I was happy to immerse myself after an hour of cleaning shoes, scrubbing kit and generally trying to rid myself of the mud. Don’t even start with the good for the complexion thing.  One to forget.

On the upside, Jim Richards ‘Gold Rush’ is nearly finished and I’ve really enjoyed reading about the adventures of an errant geologist.  It looks like CJ Sansom’s Lamentations is the next literary stop.  Next stop this Saturdays Signals Relays. All aboard.  

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Forfar Nipple


Some experiences leave their mark on you, others simply come and go and the memory bleeds away almost as soon as it’s formed.
 
Forfar half marathon, which happens in the grey and winter wraith time of early February, is one of the former. It’s a multi-terrain affair, with a circular route that takes runners around Forfar Loch on gravel tracks, a short hop through a housing estate or two, invites you along rutted, puddle strewn farm tracks, along rights of way that cut through landfill sites and old quarries and, when you're especially knackered and late in the proceedings, up 500ft’s worth of wooded track (to yon big f^*k-off hill) before plunging back down through another set of tracks. I don’t profess to know Forfar very well; the last time we were there was after the Glen Clova Half Marathon and that was a good few years ago. From memory, we were locked out of the hotel after the ceilidh up in the Glen, and it took 20 minutes to stir the night porter (or whoever it was that eventually opened the doors).

We had spent the Saturday night in Broughty Ferry and dined at Forgans and very nice it was too. Sunday saw it teaming with rain as we drove up the deserted A90 to Forfar catching glimpses through the lichen clad trees of the snow on the Grampians. Arriving in good time, me, Mrs Mac and the young pretender sat in the car quaffing the vestiges of the McDonald’s Americanos while trying to puff clouds of hot vapour out the window into a scene from Fargo. 
 
The rugby club car park was soon full with 200 or so runners. The dilemma was what to wear on our feet. We asked a few buddies and watched to see who was wearing what, but there seemed no obvious choice. I stood at the back of the car, stroking my chin, pondering, staring into the boot where a pair of Salomon Speedcross lay untidily together with 2 pairs of old road shoes and a pair of newish Hokas that have never really seen action. The youngster plumped for the Salomons and I was inclined at 10:50 to concur. Studs it was. We reasoned that if time was to be lost it would be off-road.

We set off at eleven and I settled in to a seven minute mile pace with the youngster alongside. She has the same cadence and stride length which is a bit spooky. We metronomed our way past 20 or 30 runners who had started too eagerly, getting up to 6:40/min mile-ing for the early part of the race. There was a heavy sleet shower in the first mile and I thought I might be underdressed, but once warmed up, the choice of gear was perfect; Gloves, hat, 2 layers and shorts. We overhauled the first lady at mile 5 when she founded on a soft, muddy track in her road shoes, and, at 7 miles, my running mate took off and over the next 6 miles put a minute into me. However, I was having my own private battle with an Arbroath Footers runner and spent 45 minutes wondering if he was V50. Back on level ground and into the park, the last mile was murder and I lost 2 places drifting from 17th to 19th, but had no resistance left and it took all my energy to stride to the finish line in 1:32.    Mrs Mac went walkabouts with some backmarkers and ended up doing 14 miles but they all got back in one piece. The cake, soup and tea selection was ace and we came away with £50 of vouchers and a mental imprint of a really good day out.  My nips were also suffering from some unwelcome running vest frictional imprinting.
Its good to do different races; keeps you on your toes. Pass the Vaseline.

(photos by fishygordon and craig cantwell - see facebook)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Devils Burdens Relays 2017


I knew it was cold yesterday morning as I scraped the frost off the inside of the car windscreen. It was six in the morning and foggy as I encouraged the car up the A1. Stopping at Dunfermline for a banana and a latte, the clag was down and it was decidedly foggy in places.
As I made my way to historic Falkland with its palace and twisty, winding narrow streets the village was still slumbering. The village hall was bulging with runners and an air of anticipation pervaded the scene.  I got lucky parking the car but there was hardly any space to park on the streets.
 
I ran the Devil Burdens Relays, a 30k hill running challenge for teams of 6 back in 2011, when I teamed up with Steve Mason. This year I was in the v50 team running the 3rd leg, 6 miles with 1800ft of ascent. As we gathered in the hall, I was advised that things had changed and that I was running the 2nd leg in a ‘faster’ team.
I pinned my number on my vest and checked my bumbag as the organiser from Fife AC called out the rules, the do’s and don’ts for the race. I found myself running leg 2 (another 6 miler) over Devils Burden and West Lomond with Mr G. Who I didn’t know. After asking around we met and I managed to get a lift to Strathkinness. I sat in the car looking at the map and the 7 checkpoints we needed to find.
 
We were dropped off and watched the early runners coming in from leg 1. We were soon off and passed a few teams through the woods before we hit the hillside. We tacked up the hill in the fog, as several teams came together looking for the 3rd checkpoint. It was shown to be located just east of the crags and it took a few of the teams to comb the area before we found it in the greyness and poor light.  
 
 It was upwards to West Lomond then and we slowly emerged out of the thick swirling mist to a clear blue sky and superb scenery. We managed a wee conversation on the way to Strathmiglo once the climb was over. Somewhere before the last checkpoint I found a knee deep pool of mud that stopped me in my tracks but I was never in the red and we finished at the base of a steep descent with around 70 minutes of running. We searched for the car through the village. I began to get cold as my damp sweaty gear cooled, but soon enough  it was back to Falkland before I changed on the car and left to take the long trip south.   It’s a good early season event and a good day out with lots of nice fotos.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

No cheese, thanks


Yes, thank you for asking; I had a lovely Christmas and, well, I suppose a ‘measured’ new year. You might be thinking that the latter is a veiled reference to measures of alcohol, but, no; the usual attempts at holiday discipline were exercised and I emerged from the obscene consumer driven mire not completely unscathed, but at least missing no limbs.

I read that 2016 was a shoddy year and most folk are keen to put it behind them. Will 2017 be that much better? Well, I’ve just this minute received an email advising me I have been selected for a £350,000 prize, so things are looking up I must say. 

Among the holiday purchases was an old leather chair and cushion. It’s a bit battered but I’ve been on the lookout for one, at the right price, for years.  Now as I sit here in my cast-me-up dressing gown by the hearth, I must say I can see myself morphing in Rowley Birkin, Paul Whitehouses inebriated character from the fast show.  I think I resemble David Stott from Vic Reeves big night out.

Talking of fast shows, yesterday’s Cross Country mud fest at Herrington Park near Sunderland was a hard day out for an old duffer, and running in unseasonably mild temperatures with only shorts, vest and hat for effect (although I have no idea what impression I was trying to affect),  I overdid it. Even with the benefit of a slow pack start, I crept up to 58th place after lap 2, before capitulating in the strength sapping Wearside slop to come in at 101st  from a field of around 550. The last time 50 or so runners got past me was the super-lubricated claggy descent during the 2009 Ben race. Yesterday, I may as well have replaced my 10mm spikes with raisins, or donned a set of clean brushed cotton floral pi-jim-jams and a pair of travel ballerina slippers for the number of mud-watts of power I successfully generated. The only saving grace was a star performance by the young ‘un who won the womens race and the fact that I didn’t have to queue to get out of the park, having undertaken a covert reconnaissance of exit points and available spaces near the gates during a short and unconvincing warm up, before moving the car to the optimum spot.  I didn't need a warm down!

Getting back to the house, I scrubbed the xc shoes and took a scraper to my legs, before having a pre-bath shower, then managing to fall asleep in the bath itself.  My heart rate was still abit up on the usual this morning, so today will be two short runs rather than the longer Sunday run.  But its leftover steak for lunch and something about chips and peas is in the ether.

The current read, Steinbecks Cannery Row is not a thick affair, but coming on the back of Le Carre’s the night manager, I may need something lighter.  I asked Aunt Aggie last night for a recommendation, but she was rather down-beat as she sat among the box of Christmas bobbles and tinsel that are destined for the loft for another year. When I asked why so sad, she felt compelled to admit that she had put a teaspoon in the knife compartment of the cutlery drawer on purpose and was subsequently wracked with guilt.  Her new year resolution is to improve upon her cheese making skills, but we're going to have a sit-down serious chat soon about where she stores the curd and some of the more exotic smells that are coming from behind the kitchen radiator.          

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Seasons End

In 100 years time, social historians will be able to look back to this era and recognise it mainly by the exhausting clich├ęs that are currently doing the rounds. But thankfully, you won't find me indulging in this mindless behaviour. Absolutely not, luvvie; I'm taking this blog to the next level; it'll be a short essay that ticks all the boxes....I can see you stretching slowly, remorselessly for the scalpel. me too...
I've been back in the wars; lets face it, it wouldn't be 2016 unless one vague medical condition followed another. broken ribs, suspected broken wrist, cold, more cold, blah, blah, blah. Poor health and bad luck are the two squires to the 4 horseman in my book. Of course, its all relative, and someone out there will tell me I don't know I'm born, but it sure does cramp your style.

I turned out for the last two Cross Country's, one at South Shields and last week a wee nugget of a course near Hartlepool. But my form has not only deserted me, its been sending me postcards from abroad. On the front are pictures of it sipping pina-coladas, pictures of it on the sun-lounger, pictures of it pouting and showing its tanned bare behind. Training has been very patchy and not helped by an eye infection which the eye doctor told me on Friday might take a few weeks to clear up. She suggested I put gel into my eyes every night; As I have a habit of doing this inadvertently with running gels, aiming for my eye was not going to be a problem. I have to say the eye people were rigorous. I had blue dye, yellow dye, more blue dye and more circling sparkly, bright and coloured lights than a night out with John Travolta. Sandy, cant you see? No drugs supplied, but plenty of soap and water prescribed.

No cycling, but gentle running possible. As a result, todays outing was the Hexham Hobble with the youngster. Ten miles and a steady romp around the moors and some tarmac in rural Northumberland. Around 200 turned out for this pre-crimbo stocking filler and an excellent turn out from the club. A huge display of cakery was on show prior to the start, none of it making any effort to hide its modesty. I waved on the youngster at the halfway mark (she's not getting any postcards from abroad).
It was cool and muddy and that strength sapping sort of a day out. In the last mile I had slowed to a snails pace and had around 6 passed me, but was happy enough trotting into the finish. A quick change and then had to wait for little miss speedy to pick up her 2nd place woucher. Some tea was drunk, some cake was scoffed and a jolly nice event it was too.

Soon, I was back home before you could say 'to be fair'. I was driven to destruction in the chemical repository that doubles as our bathroom looking for soap. There were many products that purported to be something like it, but my search was to no avail, until at last, I came across something that looked like cheese and was from Argyll and smelt like lemon and honey; Whatever it was, I lathered it around the various crevices and have promised myself a trip to Imperial Leathers headquarters to make some sizeable seasonal purchases.

I am going to lie low for the rest of the month and get my act together for the Devils Burden and Forfar Half next year. Not another comeback? yes, its just what the doctor ordered.  As an aside, I like Pina-coladas (and getting caught in the rain.)



Monday, 24 October 2016

Wipe On Wipe Off

The cycling hill climb at Coxhoe in Durham and organised by Houghton was the last of the short season events for me and I delivered a moderate ride over 3 minutes to finish yet again in the bottom half of the field. It only proves that you need to train for an event rather than just rolling up and hoping for the best. The climb was short and not really sufficiently steep to suit me. I think next season I may consider moving to the Alps to improve. The cost of living there might be a factor however.  When I dropped into Geneva last month paying for drinks and dinner was like handing over monopoly money. I didn't even get to put a hotel on a square.

So, with the cycling season over, I reverted to my latest misjudged adventure: Karate.

Saturday morning was like waiting outside the headmasters office. A cold sweat. An unwelcome churning in the gut. I was sure I could find a relevant paragraph in the Book of Revelation describing what was about to unfold as I waited for 3 hours for my debut appearance at 'kumite' (a karate term which broadly means 'individual sparring'). All this turmoil took place at the North of England Karate Championships. I was entered into the individual kumite and the team kumite.  Two minutes a bout.

As an aside, I am a fifty something man of small stature. I am not in the peak of youth. I remember the test card and the tufty club. I remember Fanny's Johnny.

There is, I understand, a condition described as 'small man syndrome'. It can result in small men having a chip o'nt shoulder.  Being small doesn't have to be a syndrome, though. I don't feel the need to prove myself every day. I'm even considered quite tall in Glasgow.

I also spend a considerable time trying to loose weight; or, at least, trying to avoid too much rubbish. Watching the Great British Bake off leaves me cold and not wanting to pick up a rolling pin, unlike Aunt Aggie who likes nothing better than a elegant slice of Prinzregententorte, a workmanlike wedge of parkin or a gobful of rum baba, shoe horned in between her breaks for chanter practice. Don't get me wrong, I love cakes, just that to a runner, they represent the enemy (except at the end of a race or run, when they're your best friend and you've earned it). Mostly, I quite like being the height I am. What I draw from all the above, therefore, is that I'm a good candidate for having sand kicked in my face.

It was pointed out to me by Mrs Mac, an impartial viewer at Saturdays event (and who was struggling to work out what the f*7c was going on), that, at least in boxing, the lightweights fight the other lightweights and the big bruisers stick to their own; not so in this martial art.

My adversary turned out to be a large man in white pyjamas. Perhaps an athletic 16 stoner. He didn't take long to make prompt contact with my eye socket (among other things) shortly after I laid him low with a reverse kick to the abdomen, which the referee advised against.  Swift and merciless justice was bestowed on me for my impertinence. He progressed to the next round. I failed to score any points and bowed my way out of the ring to await my fate in the team event (another 2 minute bout of pain and loathing in Wearside). Later that afternoon I lasted another two minutes without injury, but failed to score any points. I wasn't downbeat however, even as I felt my left eye puffing up and blackening as I shuffled again out of the fighting square. Simply more practice required. That, and some corrective surgery to add another 5 or 6 inches to my spine, arms and legs and a few more cakes. I left the meeting with a feeling of exhaustion and relief. I had a karate hangover yesterday and spent the wet afternoon doing family history. This could be my new calling.

However, the end of the bike season means I get to return to running and I was welcomed at 4pm when I slid back the glass door in the bedroom cupboard by all the jostling from the various pairs of trainers, looking up hopefully and shouting 'me', 'me', 'me', in their little trainer voices.

After 6 miles through the wet and leaf strewn woods, I relaxed back home with a cuppa, a well fingered copy of the Bruce Lee Courier and a couple of Aggies rum babas. What am I like?

Monday, 3 October 2016

Allen Valley Velo Hillclimb 2016

I am still buzzing from yesterdays two stage hill climb event at Allendale. What is there to buzz about? I'm not sure, but me and the youngster beetled over there into the cloud covered dale for a spot of cycle racing. I had been to a wedding reception the night before and crawled into bed at 1:30am the previous evening, so not as 'fresh' as I might have been at 8am on a Sunday morning, albeit that the night before I'd been bouncing around the dance floor to the Cult and Madness like a loon. The first stage is a long 4 miler and suits the time trialist's really. It was Cat's first of this type of event and I had refurbished the Viner. Her seat position is not quite right but I said it shouldn't matter as she needed to be up off the seat throughout, unless, that was, she wasn't trying. She cruised up the first stage, a steady long hill. She said afterwards she thought she should have maybe tried harder, as a rake of folk passed her. She was getting the hang of this racing lark.

I toiled abit on the morning climb and after the first stage 18:03 minutes sat around in 42nd place. At the end of the climb above the mist, I made sure I had a good boak. Nothing like a dry heave with a slight bitter aftertaste of bile from the previous nights pulled pork and Tetleys to freshen up the breath. You wont find that in any of the training manuals.
After tea and cake at Whitfield Village Hall, we cracked on with the 2nd stage, a sharper, shorter affair. A great crowd with flags and cowbells had gathered at the first hairpin and for a second or two it was as near to The Galibier and the Tour as I am ever going to make. As the sun warmed the tarmac, I finished in 7:14 and 38th for the second stage. Ha, so there is hope, I thought.
So no prizes, no autographs, but a right laugh and terrific little event organised by Allen Valley Velo. The next ones at Quarrington Hill in Durham in a fortnight, so best either cut down on the digestives or get myself a doctors prescription; seems to be all the rage at the mo!